Stories of Serendipity: Writing Historical Fiction Series Featuring author Alana White
Welcome to week five of the stories of serendipity series where authors share their tales of serendipity and synchronicity while writing, researching and publishing historical fiction, and speculate about why such happenings occur.
This Sunday I’m excited to introduce author Alana White and her miraculous story while writing and researching for her recent release, a historical mystery: The Sign of the Weeping Virgin…
“When I began writing The Sign of the Weeping Virgin the book had no title and no weeping painting. All I knew was I needed a miracle for my fifteenth-century Florentine lawyer to investigate in spring 1480. But what kind of miracle? Unexplained flames in the night sky over the city? What happened next made me believe not only in serendipity but in its sister, magic, too.
Turning to one of my favorite research books, Luca Landucci’s Florentine Diary, I found this entry: “March 1480: Peace was proclaimed, and the image of Our Lady of Santa Maria Impruneta was brought to Florence for the fête.” Delving deeper, I learned how Renaissance Florentines associated the painting of the Virgin Mary of S. M. Impruneta with miracles: a good crop, an illness cured. Something stirred in me: this seemed fortuitous. But had finding the Landucci quote only been very good luck?
Curious, I researched the word “Impruneta,” and discovered it is a small Tuscan town just south of Florence. The Church of S. M. Impruneta was still there. And—miraculously—after five centuries, so was the painting Luca Landucci had mentioned in his diary. I felt a little thrill, excited because I had already planned a research trip to Florence. By now I was beginning to glance over my shoulder. At noon on a sunny Sunday in October I slipped into the Church of S. M. Impruneta . . . only to see people leaving. Mass had ended. There was no sign of the painting. I found the priest, who—between my poor attempts to speak Italian and his struggle with English—explained the painting was available for viewing only on very special occasions. Not today. Disappointed to the core, I started to leave, whereupon the priest ran after me, smiling, and made me understand the following Wednesday was a special occasion, indeed: this was a Jubilee Year and during Mass the Virgin Mary of S. M. Impruneta would be displayed. I almost wept.
I returned on Wednesday to behold the painting of Mary that rose from the floor behind protective glass on the altar’s right side. She and her child had gilt halos; her robe was muddy green, and her eyes stared straight into me. I saw her and she saw me, and that is how a centuries-old painting became the heartbeat of my story and even gave the book its name.
Chance? Coincidence? Perhaps. Earlier, I used the word “magic,” and this is what I now believe: magic—serendipity—happens when we have done the work, and we are present to the moment, and we are willing to let magic take us by the hand and guide us where we need to be.”
For more about Alana’s work: www.alanawhite.com
See you here next Sunday October 6th for author Marina Maxwell’s uncanny story: One not to be missed!
Posted by Stephanie Renee dos Santos